Friday, January 21, 2022

How A Clerical Error Turned Corporations Into People

On May 10, 1886, a Court Reporter/Clerk, recorded that the Court had ruled that Corporations are persons within the intent of the 14th Amendment, providing equal protection of the laws. Actually, the Supreme Court never said that, but ever since, Corporations have exploited this Bogus rendition of their Legal Status.

The Mistake came in the Writing of a “Headnote” to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1886 Decision in an obscure Tax Case called Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. The Railroads pushed hard in this unheralded Case to get the Court to rule that Corporations have Equal Taxation and other Human Rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Chief Justice Morrison Waite, a Failed Ohio Politico and former Railroad Lawyer, seemed a likely bet to do the Corporate Bidding, but he did Not.

The Court decided in favor of Southern Pacific on the mundane Fence-Post matter, but it specifically dodged the Immense Issue of Personhood. It held No Open Court Discussion about it, wrote No Opinions mentioning it, and rendered No Judgment on it.

But a Court Reporter, J.C. Bancroft Davis, a former Railroad Official, wrote the Headnote to the Decision, a Headnote being a Summary of the Case, for which Reporters like Davis, received a Commission from the Publisher of these Legal Documents.

Davis’s Lead Sentence declares: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a state to deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

That’s it. A Clerk’s Personal Opinion, carrying No weight of Law and Misinterpreting what the Court said, this is the Pillar on which rests today’s practically Limitless Assertions of Corporate “Rights.”

Davis later asked Chief Justice Waite whether he was Correct in saying that the Court had Ruled on Corporate Personhood, and Waite responded that “we avoided meeting the Constitutional questions.”

But, this Assertion has been Repeated so often by CEOs, Politicians, Pundits, Professors, and Judges, that it is now assumed to be Unassailable Truth.

Again and again, we hear the Establishment speak of the “Right” of this or that Corporation to do as it pleases, as if the Founders themselves had contemplated this as part of their Grand Democratic Design.

And Elevan years ago, with their appalling Citizens United decision, a Pro-Corporate Court Majority, opened the floodgates for Political Spending by Big Business. The Voices of Regular Voters now are Drowned-Out by Corrupting, Corporate Cash.

In the century since 1886, “Personhood” has been greatly Expanded as grasping Executives and their Lawyers claimed such Rights as:

- A First Amendment Right to Spend Unlimited Sums of Corporate Money to Elect their chosen Candidates or Lobby for Special-Interest Laws.

- A Fourteenth Amendment Right to Prevent Local Communities from favoring Homegrown Businesses over Chain Stores.

- A Fourth Amendment Right to Prevent Regulators from making Surprise Inspections of Factories and the Corporate Records of Polluters, Meat Packers, etc.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

1 comment:

richardwinger said...

Citizens United v FEC was an excellent opinion. If it weren't for that opinion, the federal government could have shut down Saturday Night Live, which is owned by a corporation and which comments on candidates for federal office during the period 60 days before a primary or an election. The overwhelming majority of people who criticize the decision have no idea what it was about. It was about whether a corporation could advertise for an on-demand film that criticized Hillary Clinton.